Be active to promote use of your loyalty programs: study

Results from Bond Brand Loyalty's annual survey shows where marketers are leaving money on the table.

The latest annual Bond Brand Loyalty study shows that if brands want customers to engage with a loyalty program, a little human touch goes a long way.

Of the 50,000 consumers Bond surveyed across 18 countries and 800 loyalty programs, only 10% of members say they’re prompted to use their loyalty programs by brand representatives. Even fewer (9%) say they get help to make the most of their memberships, and only 8% say brand representatives make them feel special and recognized.

According to Sean Claessen, EVP of strategy and innovation at Bond, those totals have been relatively stable in recent years. He told strategy that this trend shows brand leaders are leaving money on the table.

“There’s always the relationship that asks, ‘What is my cost to engage an existing customer versus acquiring a new customer?’” he said. Where existing relationships are cheaper than prospects to turn into a sale, front-line staff should be better trained in explaining and promoting program use.

“It seems a bit ludicrous to us that the human face of the brand isn’t recognizing [loyalty members] for being, literally, a card-carrying member of the brand.”

Claessen recalls when he learned of Starbucks’ changes to its loyalty program several years ago. “My barista couldn’t tell me if this was better for me or not, they couldn’t explain the intricacy of going from one system to another… You have to equip your whole front-line.”

For brands that are doing it right, he said, disruptors such as Uber point the way forward. Uber will often provide free upgrades to loyal members, pairing them with an Uber Select driver. But the most important thing, Claessen said, is that the brand actively communicates that it has done so, and why.

“The brand gets full credit for the upgrade and, at the same time, they make the customer feel recognized and valued,” he said.

Claessen said better communication should go beyond a single promotional campaign. Marketers may want a simple answer that doesn’t involve fully integrating loyalty communications across a brand, he said, “but that’s what you have to do.” In mobile apps, at point-of-sale and in all direct marketing venues, loyalty programs should be promoted as a place for consumers to get more value.

As for traditional methods like TV spots, he said, “they’re probably only effective if you’ve actually done something truly amazing through your loyalty program that you want to communicate to everyone.”